Interview with the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts

The judicial process by itself cannot lead to reconciliation, but it is a prerequisite for reconciliation. It is necessary for the responsible politicians to acknowledge the crimes of the past, for the victims to be ready to forgive, but also for the criminals and their families to accept everything that was committed in the past and for it to be stated in the school textbooks, said Serge Bramertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts, for BHRT.

“Recognition is one of the basic aspects of reconciliation. If we see textbooks that are different in this country, it is really a burden for future generations. We need to teach children to know that the differences between different communities are not dominant and that they have more similarities than differences,” said Bramertz in an interview on the BHT1 live show.

“The work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was not always perfect. When we look at the judgments, they were very important, as well as the documentation that was collected. These are judgments about mass crimes that happened in your country and most of the perpetrators were convicted. People learned the truth, we heard thousands of testimonies,” said Bramertz.

He emphasized that it is unacceptable that today in the countries of the region, war criminals are glorified.

“It is really an insult to the victims. It is also unacceptable from the legal point of view. I personally want every citizen, every politician, every one who is responsible to react more strongly when it comes to the glorification of war crimes,” said Bramertz and added that before ten years was much more optimistic.

“There was less denial, less glorification, has the mentality of people changed or are they more ready to let these stories go lightly than ten years ago and let it all pass without consequences… That’s really a big problem today and getting worse”.

Bramertz says that the verdicts should have contributed to the reconciliation process, but the opposite happened.

“Perhaps the judgments are not well understood, perhaps it is not clear where the problem lies. The judgments should help reconciliation, but in fact the opposite happens and this has negative consequences for the reconciliation process itself. When it comes to acquittals, there are always those who are unhappy because them so that reconciliation must come from within society itself, society itself must be ready for reconciliation, an educational system that will be adapted to the truth is needed. I think that judgments will not directly and automatically lead to reconciliation. Indeed, responsibility is needed and then reconciliation will get a chance,” says Bramertz.

According to him, a major problem in prosecuting war crimes is regional cooperation.

“I remember in 2008 when the Brijuni Trial started, when we brought prosecutors from Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, we had a lot of plans, we thought it would be possible, we had a common list of perpetrators and we wanted to see which the prosecution will be the best, to start with those investigations. We talked about joint investigation teams and prosecution teams. Unfortunately, none of that was implemented. Now we have weaker regional cooperation, we have more than a hundred requests for mutual international assistance. We tried to we organize some trials in absentia, it was very difficult, for example, many perpetrators of crimes in BiH live a peaceful life in Serbia and Croatia. What is needed is to ensure that those cases can be transferred to BiH from Serbia and Croatia, that is absolutely necessary. It takes resources, political will and time to do something about it,” says Bramertz.

He believes that many politicians in the region use nationalist rhetoric, instead of accepting the language of reconciliation.

In every country of the region, even in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bramerc states, there is a different analysis of what happened in the past.

“On the one hand, the victim is seen as the perpetrator, on the other hand, and vice versa. We should at least agree on what was wrongly done in the past. This is not about countries, nor about governments, but about individual criminal responsibilities. Definitely, that would should be based on judgments and agreement on where responsibility lies. Because if we can’t agree on what was wrong in the past, then how can we agree on a common future, how can this region become prosperous?” asked Bramertz.

He points out that joint projects and agreements are needed for all of this. One of them is the judicial project, which, according to Bramer, we unfortunately do not have today.

In the interview, Bramertz said, among other things, that no one was tried in The Hague Court because he fought bravely and because he defended his people.

“Each one was convicted individually for committing a grave violation of the Geneva Convention, for conducting massive campaigns of rape and looting,” says Bramertz and adds:

“Criminal denial is the continuation of crimes. Genocide as such aims to destroy an entire group, to destroy their entire identity and even the memory of that group. That’s why I really want us to have more sanctions, much stronger reactions from responsible politicians for all kinds of glorification of war crimes You have school textbooks in which nowhere is it stated that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, but also that there was no siege of Sarajevo. We have an information center that was opened in Sarajevo, on our website you have the testimonies of all those who wanted the truth to be known, so you can look there to see what is the truth and what are the lies that are being marketed, which have nothing to do with reality “.

Bramertz believes that it is a sad reality that there is no extradition treaty with neighboring countries, which, as he said, allows many criminals to lead a peaceful life.

“The only way to solve this is to convince our colleagues in Sarajevo to transfer these cases to Zagreb or Belgrade. This will only be possible if there is political will and capable people in Zagreb and Belgrade to do this work. We could take that step if judicial institutions would be ready to do that job professionally,” Bramertz said.

He also reminded that the issue of missing persons and the search for remains, that is, the identification of victims, is a process that is still ongoing.

“We have more than 1,000 missing persons, we have unidentified mass graves, we, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, tried to see where those locations are, to come up with names. Glorifying war criminals has negative consequences. We must know who did it, all the soldiers who participated in the crimes, all the truck drivers, all the workers who dug the mass graves must be informed,” Serge Bramertz, chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts, said in an interview with BHRT.

Let us remind you that 30 years have passed since the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The last criminal proceedings before this court ended in 2017. A total of 84 out of 161 defendants were convicted, including Ratko Mladić. Thousands of witnesses testified before the International Court, which helped the judges in achieving justice and establishing the truth.

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